‘Leave No Trace’ (2018): Written and directed by the filmmaker behind the grim “Winter’s Bone,” this film set in the Pacific Northwest leaves a deep impression on the strength of its performances and vivid sense of place. Ben Foster plays a PTSD-ravaged veteran raising his teenage daughter (an equally remarkable Thomasin McKenzie) off the grid in a Portland city park until authorities intervene. Where the story goes from there is a quiet yet compelling look at the often hidden toll of combat while also offering a nuanced exploration of a father and daughter’s bond as the first steps toward adulthood are taken.
SUSS’ ‘Ghost Box (Expanded): The holidays are nearly here, which means many of us will embark on road trips through the desert or otherwise desolate places. Such environments cry out for a proper soundtrack, and this atmospheric recent album by a New York quintet is a counter-intuitive but rewarding choice once the carols have worn thin and the kids have fallen asleep. An all-instrumental set marked by electronic textures, bent guitars and a far-reaching pedal steel, the occasionally Southwestern-leaning sounds will keep your imagination active as the miles add up on your sleigh.
Digital dance move hijacking: Continuing a well-established tradition of tech companies forgetting to ask permission before doing whatever they like, the makers of the games “Fortnight” and “NBA2K” landed in legal trouble when “Fresh Prince” star Alfonso Ribeiro joined the Floss-inventing “Backpack Kid” in filing suit against the company for co-opting their respective dance moves in the digital world. Just to be on the safe side as we enter a brave new world in intellectual property, maybe all future in-game celebrations should be versions of “The Worm” until this matter is settled.
The Grammys’ ongoing struggles: The Recording Academy hasn’t had the best time of late. Ratings are down, longtime chief Neil Portnow is stepping down after a few PR blunders, and the annual list of nominees remains as head-scratching as ever. In one glaring example, Kendrick Lamar’s terrific “Black Panther” soundtrack could finally net the hip-hop artist an album of the year Grammy after his landmark “To Pimp a Butterfly” and the Pulitzer-winning “Damn” were passed over. But what will it say if the overdue honor arrives after his singular vision was filtered through the more mainstream context of a Marvel blockbuster?
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